El Chapo Paid $100 Million to Ex-Mexican President says Witness

Published: 16 January 2019

Peña Nieto 2017Former President Peña Nieto (Photo: Flickr, CC-BY-2.0)

By Harry Holmes

Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman paid a US$100 million bribe to former Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, according to a witness at Guzman’s trial on Tuesday.

Alex Cifuentes Villa, describing himself as Guzman’s former right-hand man, told the New York court the bribe was paid when Pena Nieto was president-elect in October 2012.

Guzman is on trial after he was extradited from Mexico on charges of trafficking cocaine, heroin and other drugs into the United States as leader of the Sinaloa Cartel.

Pena Nieto was the president of Mexico from 2012 to 2018. Cifuentes told jurors the politician initially reached out to Guzman around the time he was elected, asking for $250 million to call off a nationwide manhunt. The price was negotiated down to $100 million.

Jeffrey Lichtman, Guzman’s defence lawyer, first raised the allegation in his opening statement last November. He claimed Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada was the real boss of the cartel who bribed Pena Nieto and another former president in order to frame Guzman.

Pena Nieto at the time called the claim “completely false and defamatory.”

His former chief of staff, Francisco Guzman, last night rejected the accusation on Twitter: “The declarations of the Colombian drug trafficker in New York are false, defamatory and absurd. The government of Enrique Pena Nieto was the one that located, arrested and extradited Joaquin Guzman Loera.”

Guzman was imprisoned in Mexico in 2014 however his later escape was a source of international embarrassment for Pena Nieto, who left office in November 2018 with record low approval ratings and accusations of corruption, including involvement in Brazil's ‘Car Wash’ scandal.